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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Thomas Nelson

First Committee Member

Marilyn Draheim

Second Committee Member

Gregory Potter

Third Committee Member

Alan Jones


Children living in poverty are at an elevated risk for academic, behavioral and emotional problems compared with children who are in the middle and upper classes (Kim-Cohen et al., 2004). Students living in poverty generally have fewer opportunities in schools as schools are less likely to offer rigorous curriculum or advanced classes for poor children (Burney & Belike, 2008). ). Education can be a sufficient route out of poverty for young people (2009). However, since the 1970's researchers found that family income is a major detriment to higher educational attainment (Jencks 1972; Kelly 1995; Mortimore & Whitty 1997; Bynner & Joshi 2002; Demie, Butler, & Taplin 2002; Bell 2003; UNICEF 2007). The purpose of this study was to better understand the phenomenon that is the process that at-risk youth employ to graduate from college. More specifically, this study described, analyzed, and interpreted the experiences of people who formerly lived in chronic poverty and graduated from college using resilience as a framework. Using a phenomenological approach, I interviewed nine adults who lived in chronic poverty as a child and later graduated from college. Sources of data included audio-recorded interview transcripts, notes and pictorials. Data analysis followed Moustakas' and van Manen's modifications of phenomenological methods. The analysis of the audio taped interviews led to the following emerged themes: Being the other in the family; Moving as a positive route; Helpful counselors and college-preparatory programs; Hiding and disassociating from the poverty identity; Education as utility; Rebelliousness against authority and; Not belonging to a social class. Findings of this study lead to a deeper understanding of the ways in which people who formerly lived in poverty and later graduated from college experiences and how these experiences have influenced their resilience. These findings offer researchers future research opportunities in various areas such as, how cultural and aspirational capital can lead to college graduation for children living in poverty.





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